By Adamos Chatzipanagis, paediatrician
What causes infectious mononucleosis?
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). This virus belongs to the category of herpes viruses. Other viruses may also give a similar image. The virus is transmitted through the saliva of infected persons, and this is why it is commonly called the “kissing disease”.
What is the incubation period?
The time needed for a person, who has come into contact with the virus, to manifest the disease is about 7-14 days.
How is infectious mononucleosis presented?
Patients with infectious mononucleosis complain that they feel extremely tired. They have reduced appetite, and general weakness. Other main symptoms are light fever, sore throat, swollen neck glands, pain in the muscles, and swelling of the spleen in the abdomen. The symptoms last for 7-10 days.
Swelling of the tonsils may cause difficulty in breathing, and your child may start to snore. If the doctor prescribes the antibiotic amoxicillin, a rash may appear, especially on the torso. Also, during infectious mononucleosis, the liver may be affected, and the patient may present with slight jaundice.
It is not necessary for a child with infectious mononucleosis to have all of the above symptoms. The clinical picture is not so typical in small children, who may only have a temperature and discomfort. The picture is more typical in older children.
When does a sick child transmit the virus?
A patient can transmit the infectious mononucleosis virus for months. This doesn’t mean that the child should be isolated for this period of time. Most people have antibodies against the virus. Besides, it is not transmitted very easily, and only to close contacts or related persons.
How is the diagnosis made?
The best way to diagnose the disease is by tracing special antibodies against the virus in the blood.
What are the risks from infectious mononucleosis?
Usually, the tonsils become so big, that the child snores at night. If the child is injured in the abdomen, the swollen spleen may rupture. The fatigue that the child feels may persist for weeks or even months. Other complications are rare. The paediatrician will monitor the child for any complications.
Is there a treatment?
Administer antipyretics such as paracetamol to treat fever. There is no need for antibiotics.
If there is severe obstruction to the throat, your doctor may prescribe cortisone.
The child should drink plenty of liquids so as not to become dehydrated from high fever.
The child should rest if possible, if he wants to.
Sports should be avoided at least for a month, because the swollen spleen may easily rupture.